The 37th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which took place in D.C. last week, came at a happy time for conservatives, what with the recent election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the increased visibility of the Tea Party movement due to their own recent convention, and a wave of bad press for Democrats.
So rightbloggers — a large number of whom were credentialed for the event — were juiced. “CPAC2010: An Event to really irritate the Libs,” decreed RedState, was “on its way to ensuring many Conservative victories in November of 2010.”
They had another reason to lay claim to the future: A lot of very young attendees.
“There are 10,000 people at CPAC,” rightblogger Melissa Clouthier told the Austin Capital Times. “Probably half of them are under age 25.” (Organizers said nearly half the crowd was under 22.) “So there’s a LOT of young people, and a lot of energy. And there’s more hope.”
Along with hope, there was also — perhaps partly in consequence of the younger crowd — a little trouble with message control. This year’s CPAC straw poll of Presidential contenders was topped by Ron Paul; the endorsement of Paul’s libertarianism was a large change for the event (Mitt Romney, who had won the previous three years’ straw polls, came in second).
Children being the future, CPAC pandered to its younger attendees with a “XPAC Lounge” featuring hip-hop, video games, and even comedians. “You see kids kicking back,” said XPAC organizer Stephen Baldwin, “eating popcorn, checking e-mail on their Wifi with blazing speed.”
One of the kids decided to try a little stand-up of his own at the CPAC lectern. In his routine, Jason Mattera of the Young America’s Foundation called liberal women ugly, identified a “feminist new black man” as “a crossover between RuPaul and Barney Frank,” and made fun of Obama using cocaine.
A tonic for the troops, no doubt, and like the Nancy Pelosi Pinata, par for the partisan course at such gatherings. Rightbloggers endeavored to get some extra mileage out of it by shaming folks who found Mattera’s jokes in poor taste. There were plenty of these, but it’s always better when they can get after the New York Times. The Times report appeared under the title, “CPAC Speaker Bashes Obama, in Racial Tones,” and reporter Kate Zernike said Mattera used “a Chris Rock voice” in his act.
This mild rebuke provoked a deluge of rightblogger rage. “Surprise: NY Times Finds Racial Stereotyping at Conservative Convention,” said NewsBusters. “NYT: Brooklyn Accent = RAAAACIST!” said The Jawa Report. Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey defended Mattera: “He’s been calling me his ‘brothah’ in his pronounced Brooklyn accent since the day I met him.”
Dan Riehl accused Zernike of “smearing” Mattera and added: Look, I know a black guy.
“Some on the Left continue to toss [the word ‘racism’] about irresponsibly and unfairly for political purposes,” said Guy Benson at National Review. “It’s disgraceful, and it must stop.” At Big Journalism, Benson demanded an apology, ironically enough, for Zernike’s oversensitivity (as did Riehl), and Andrew Breitbart did his usual berserker routine (“Kate Zernike of the New York Times, are you in the room? Are you in the room? You’re despicable. You’re a despicable human being. You’re the New York Times“).
(You have to wonder where these guys were when Wanda Sykes was taking grief for her comedy routine at last year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which NewsBusters, among others, judged an attack on white people. But let’s be hopeful; maybe the next time someone makes fun of Sarah Palin, they’ll all rush to defend the muse of comedy.)
Along with the young people, there were also of a lot of Birchers at CPAC: The John Birch Society, the far-right conspiracy theorists who had supposedly been read out of the movement by William F. Buckley back in the 60s, were among the sponsors of the event.
It was suggested that the JBS presence was what kept Sarah Palin from the convention (along with its lack of speakers’ fees). Dan Riehl found that hypocritical; “She is said to have problems with CPAC for their allowing the John Birch Society to have a booth,” wrote Riehl, “but then she turns around and backs Rand Paul, who is about as aligned with the Birchers as any politician, save for his Father, right now.” (When Ron Paul took the straw poll, Riehl was silent.)
Perhaps sensing that the Birchers did not offer good PR for their cause, few rightbloggers defended the Birchers’ inclusion, and some like Power Line denounced it. Wizbang was an unfortunate exception: “CPAC letting the John Birch Society buy a table at their gathering is one thing,” wrote Jay Tea. “Barack Obama building the foundation of his political career under the auspices of unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers… is quite another.” We assume he meant the comparison to favor CPAC, although admittedly it’s hard to tell.
But the Ron Paul win had to be addressed quickly and en masse, lest it dampen the convention buzz.
Some leaned on the angle that Paul’s people had organized effectively, thereby rendering his victory invalid.
“Well, Ron Paul has managed to rally his supporters again, but it looks good for Mitt Romney,” said Right Wing News. “This is dismaying, to the extent one takes it seriously,” said Power Line. “The Ron Paul people are a cult, and are more likely to vote in that straw poll,” said Race 4 2012. (Cultism seems to have advanced greatly since Romney’s victory last year.)
“He had a massive following there, and Paul supporters are so connected that they can manipulate events such as CPAC,” said Cosmopolitan Conservative. For example, “They had volunteers distributing flyers at every single entrance, and this hotel was huge,” which is clearly cheating.
Others noted that only about a quarter of the conventioneers voted. (That’s even worse than ordinary Americans!)
Avid Editor’s Insights went for the traditional rightblogger response to unfavorable election results: Accusations of fraud. “I think he cheated,” said AEI. “Just wondering how… I guess a Ron Paul nut or two made some fake ballots. Anyone have an inside story on this?”
And some blamed those darned kids who had energized their convention.
“48% of the votes cast were from students,” said Erick Erickson. “…2% for the actual 2012 GOP nominee, Mitch Daniels.” “Of course about half of the voters were students, his mainstay of support,” said The Moderate Republican. “…the results mean almost nothing.” “Students comprised 48 percent of the sample — how else could Paul have won?” said Hot Air’s Allahpundit, who was also flabbergasted that only one percent of CPAC poll respondents considered stopping gay marriage important.
“48% of the voters were students… Grow up,” said Gateway Pundit.
But some took Paul’s victory seriously. “It shows he could be a force in the 2012 GOP Presidential Nomination Race if he decides to run,” said Freedom’s Lighthouse. “Perhaps there is hope yet for this country,” said Conservative Scalawag. “The Paul straw vote, which will be widely derided come tomorrow,” said Wizbang, “is the canary in the coal mine moment for many, many Democrats and not a few Republicans.”
The American Spectator tried to drop the news without comment, but it has a comments section, one user of which told doubters, “It is people like you who are responsible for Obama, only Ron Paul has the appeal among Independents and Democrats, of all the 2008 crowd, to have beaten Obama, and you pukes black-balled. This is our party now.”